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It seemed obvious that I would take care of my dad after rehab. One of my brother's had married 4 months before, and the situation with my dad would be more than a new marriage should be asked to bear. My other brother was living with roommates and experiencing the typical life of a single 20-something, not very conducive to constant care-giving.
Alita, the social worker, kept talking about the routines and stability that would be crucial for my dad and reassuring me that I had those things to offer because I was already taking care of children and used to the scheduled climate of family life. I understood what she was saying, but I also thought that this 50-something social worker had probably forgotten about the days with young kids. I had just had a baby a few weeks before, and routines and schedules were barely starting to come back into play. And aside from scheduled meal times, our days were largely dictated by my kids. If someone was sick, we stayed home. If everyone was healthy, we'd venture to the grocery store or the park. Miss A had preschool at designated times. Naps were hopefully taken between certain hours. Beyond that, things were pretty open. It didn't seem like a great structure to me, but deep down I knew it would be the best option.
And really, that was one of the gifts of the experience. Despite the many doubts going into it, I knew it was something I could do because I knew it was something I was supposed to do. Sure, there were a thousand questions of how things would really work, but the knowledge that I needed to do it provided me with the faith that somehow everything would work out. The diet, the medicines, the bills, the safety would somehow all be taken care of. I would learn what I needed to in order to care for my dad. And then I would learn a lot about myself along the way.
This is one place where things got hard. We had many well-meaning family members and friends who didn't have the same conviction that I did that it was something I needed to do. Instead, they saw the thousands of questions. And they hypothesized about the stress and the impossibilities and the worse-case scenarios. And then they questioned us over and over and o v e r. Wasn't there another option? What would happen if we weren't there? Couldn't we find some place to care for him? It became tiresome to constantly reassure them while we were still in the process of reassuring ourselves, trusting in the answers we'd received that this was a necessary thing for our family.
One day while on one of my many phone calls with Alita, I entertained the thoughts of some of the doubters. "What would happen if I wasn't here, Alita? What would happen to my dad? What if I can't do this?"
She didn't let my doubts become an option. "It's amazing what families can do when faced with a situation like this," she replied. "Somehow, they step up. They sacrifice. They make it work. They care for their loved one." I'm grateful that she didn't let that train of thought last long.
I hung up with a renewed confidence. There was no other option. I could step up. I was taking it on.
In an effort to remember what I've been through taking care of my dad post-stroke and share the growth and beauty that came along the way, I will be journaling this experience as part of Bee a Little Better. You can find all posts in this series under the label "the dad story". I hope you'll stick with me as I record this experience. If it doesn't interest you, come back tomorrow for something different.